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‘Delta 5’ Activists Convicted of Trespassing After 2014 Oil And Coal Train Action

About a dozen demonstrators blocked the tracks at a Burlington Northern Santa Fe yard to protest oil trains.
Elaine Thompson
AP Images
One of the "Delta 5" protestors waves from atop a tripod erected on train tracks in Sept. 2014, in Everett, Wash.

Five activists who joined forces in an attempt to stop oil and coal  trains from traveling through the Northwest have been convicted of criminal trespassing. That’s after a jury in Lynnwood handed down its verdict on Friday.

The so-called “Delta 5” lost their key argument, about whether it was necessary to chain themselves to the train tracks along with a huge tripod and banner, designed to stop the trains.

But, Jay O’Hara, an observer and supporter, says they’re okay with the loss.

“I don’t think optimism is actually what’s required here, because I think the outcome of this case is going to be a story that the climate movement will talk about for a long time," he said. "And so, our commitment to continue and to inspire people to take those kinds of big risks is going to continue no matter what happens.” 

The risk he’s talking about is “direct action” against the oil and coal companies — the idea that it’s okay to block things physically to make a point.

O'Hara and a friend of his committed direct action in 2013 against a coal power plant in Narraganset Bay, Rhode Island, by anchoring a wooden lobster boat in front of a shipment of 40,000 tons of  West Virginian coal. They're part of a newly founded center for civil disobedience focused on climate change

In the case in Lynnwood, Judge Anthony Howard  ruled that the Delta 5's actions were not a form of free speech. He also said the six-person jury must not consider testimony from several expert witnesses, who talked about both the dangers of local coal trains and of global climate change.

The defendants now have 30 days to decide whether they will appeal that ruling in order to get those expert opinions back on the record. 

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat for KNKX, where she has worked since 1999. From 2000-2012, she covered the business and labor beat. Bellamy has a deep interest in Indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University.
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